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Doctor Who: Grave Matter Mass Market Paperback – 1 May 2000
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The Doctor and Peri materialize on island named Dorsill, which has recently been purchased by a DNA scientist named Sheldon. At first the villagers are unconcerned by a few local deaths. Little do they realize that they are now part of Sheldon's closed experiment.
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Sadly Grave Matter doesn’t get off to a brilliant start and after a reasonably interesting first chapter the pace slows to a crawl. Richards is usually the master of getting you hooked in from the first few pages, but here he lets himself down. Plot wise the Doctor and Peri have arrived on an island off the Cornish coast which seems a little bit anachronistic but it soon becomes clear it is in the present day, the island just shuns most modern technology. Something is still fishy though, with new arrivals Sir Edward Baddesley, Dave Madsen and Christopher Sheldon causing all manner of odd behaviour in the wildlife and local populace. Things do pick up after the first 50 odd pages, but just as the novel starts to get interesting, it descends into a mediocre zombie plot which whilst not bad, hardly sets your imagination alight.
The 6th Doctor and Peri are one of my very favourite pairings. Bar the totally out of character Doctor in The Twin Dilemma I was always a great lover of Colin Baker’s Doctor, with the writing and people in charge letting him down. Sadly he doesn’t fare well in Grave Matter either with Richards opting to write him as a shadow of himself. The 6th Doctor is bold, brash and bullish, but here we see very little of that with a Doctor much more akin to the 3rd. Peri also isn’t great, she’s fairly generic as companions go anyway, and here she doesn’t do much to say she’s Peri. It’s almost as if it was a 3rd Doctor and Jo Grant novel with a few lines changed to fit this era of the show.
Sadly things don’t really pick up when you get to the supporting cast, which is unlike Justin Richards who is normally pretty good. All the characters are clichéd and stereotypically, the grieving brother, the insane but friendly patient, the dodgy newcomers etc. etc. Richards also usually manages to serve up a decent plot twist or two, but here you can see everything coming a mile off.
Grave Matter is basically Doctor Who by numbers with a generic cast. It could be any Doctor with any companion and it would still deliver the exact same experience. The story makes up for this somewhat, but it’s still very middle of the road and nothing you’ve not seen before. Apparently Richards wrote it at short notice, and it shows.
The plot whizzes along, and the reader is met with cliff hanger after cliff hanger, with excellent action and horror in the old Tom Baker/John Pertwee mould.
Colin Baker was one of my favourite doctors who seemed to be let down by weak scripts and stories, but I'd have loved to have seen this on the telly! must for any fans of Doctor who. What are you waiting for? BUY IT!
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